After finding that Google’s search-engine manipulation in the 2020 election could have shifted a minimum of 6 million votes to Democrat Joe Biden, Harvard-trained research psychologist and Democratic voter Robert Epstein turned his sights to the Georgia Senate elections.
For the first time — after having monitored three national elections — he said in an interview with WND that his growing team of field agents found no political bias in Google’s search results.
But Epstein believes that’s a direct result of his monitoring efforts, and he plans to exponentially expand them.
“We went public in late October with monitoring, and it appears that we forced Google to back off on Georgia,” he told WND.
Epstein now is working on the establishment of a “permanent, large-scale monitoring system in all 50 states.” And he wants to have another system established by the end of this year to find out what the Big Tech companies “are showing our kids.”
“Next year, before the midterms, we would like to be building in as many states as possible the infrastructure for a large-scale permanent system,” he said, noting he is in conversation with potential funders.
It’s an expensive endeavor, but “the good news is we know how to do it,” said Epstein, a psychology professor at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in Vista, California.
“That’s taken five years,” he said. “And we know it can have an impact on the content these companies are showing people.”
Meanwhile, Congress is not acting, said Epstein, with Democrats “in the pocket” of Big Tech and Republicans always hesitant to regulate business.
“So it’s a perfect storm here for perpetuating these irregularities,” he said.
Epstein opposes antitrust action, which often looks promising but turns out to be “just an example of regulatory capture,” meaning agencies acting in the interest of the business and not the public.
“It’s a classic mechanism by which large companies work with government agencies to craft laws, punishments and settlements that serve those companies,” he said.
“They will benefit the tech companies and not protect us.”
He argued further that antitrust actions are about protecting other businesses from being dominated by monopolies.
“You could argue that consumers can benefit. But I don’t think any company can give us better search results,” he said.
A better approach, he believes, is to make Big Tech bias a consumer-protection issue. But in Congress, “everyone moves where the money is.”
He said he asked a lawmaker why he had moved away from a consumer-protection approach to reining in Big Tech.
“The answer was that he could get more support from colleagues by shifting to antitrust issues,” Epstein said. “What that comes down to is money.”
Epstein said he is creating a body of evidence that he hopes will bolster any action against the Big Tech giants.
“I think I turned a corner with these last elections. I think I have the evidence we need.”
Epstein, a registered Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in the last two presidential elections, has paid a personal price for his work, which he sees as an effort to preserve free and fair elections and ultimately the republic itself.
Noting Google is “pervasive” in academia, he said a paper he recently submitted to a journal was rejected in a “very, very odd” process. Epstein, who pointed out he has been published in academic journals for 40 years and has been a reviewer himself, said one reviewer accepted his paper with only minor revisions. The other reviewer kept his or her identity secret, which he said he’s never seen in his entire career. That review recommended rejection, and the journal rejected the paper.
“I don’t think that’s allowed. I think it’s unethical. I’m protesting it loudly, but, of course, it raises some obvious questions,” he said.
“Was the secret review written by someone who receives financial support from Google?” he asked.
“Why would the journal editors take it seriously?” he said. “Do they have financial support from Google?”
He noted that in some cases he’s discovered that people writing negative reviews about his work are receiving support from Google.
WND asked Epstein about his January 2020 statements regarding the death of his wife, Misti Dawn Vaughn, in which he suggest it was not an accident.
He explained that after having given a private briefing in 2019 to state attorneys general, one of the AGs approached him and said, “I think, Dr. Epstein, that you are going to die in an accident in the next few months.”
It was a prediction, not a threat, Epstein clarified.
“Some of the data I had shared was very disturbing stuff, and if acted upon could be very problematic for Google and other companies.”
Epstein made it clear he is making no accusations, but he noted that not long after that warning, Misti died in an auto accident.
“That sequence was extremely disturbing,” he said, acknowledging that he and the people around him are “vulnerable.”
Last month, Epstein gave a presentation of his work over the past five years to the annual meeting of the American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences.
It was titled “Large-scale monitoring of Big Tech political manipulations in the 2020 Presidential election and 2021 Senate runoffs, and why monitoring is essential for democracy.”
He explained why he thinks the establishment of a permanent, large-scale monitoring system in all 50 states is essential.
“That is the only way to protect democracy, human autonomy and our descendents from invisible manipulation by Big Tech companies, now and in the decades to come,” he said in his presentation.
In November 2020, Epstein’s researchers collected 500,000 election-related searches, which is about 30 times more data than his team collected in 2016. They found four years ago, as WND reported after interviewing Epstein, that biased results generated by Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that gave at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton and as many as 10.4 million.
In the Senate runoff elections in Georgia this past January, the number of election-related searches on Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube and Facebook was doubled, with 1,112,416 collected by 1,003 field agents.
In the November 2020 election, he noted that more liberals than conservatives were getting vote reminders on their Google home page.
“I’m not a conservative, but this is very disturbing, from the perspective of the principles of a free and fair election,” he told WND.
In the Georgia elections, however, none of his field agents were shown vote reminders.
‘Supporter of democracy’
In an interview with WND last August, Epstein outlined the statistical evidence he has accumulated to document Google bias from more than seven years of research, internal documents, emails, videos and the testimony of whistleblowers.
He emphasized to WND he is not a Trump supporter but a “supporter of democracy.” He wanted Joe Biden to win, but wanted the election to be fair, recognizing that in the future the tech giants could put their massive power behind a candidate who is not of his choice.
Epstein – who was famed behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner’s last Ph.D. student at Harvard – has been a research psychologist for nearly 40 years. He has served in various editorial positions at Psychology Today magazine and Scientific American MIND. He’s the author of 15 books and more than 300 scientific and mainstream articles on artificial intelligence and other topics.
In testimony one year ago to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, he emphasized he is “not a conservative.”
“I am here today for three reasons: to explain why Google presents a serious threat to democracy and human autonomy, to explain how passive monitoring systems can protect us both now and in the future from companies like Google, and to tell you how Congress can immediately end Google’s worldwide monopoly on search.”
He found in 2016 that biased results generated by Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that gave at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton.
He based that on his preservation of more than 13,000
election-related searches conducted by a diverse group of Americans on Google, Bing, and Yahoo in the weeks leading up to the election.
Google search results were significantly biased in favor of Clinton, he found, in all 10 positions on the first page of search results in both blue states and red states.
Epstein said he knows the number of votes that shifted because he conducted dozens of controlled experiments in the U.S. and other countries that measure precisely how opinions and votes shift when search results favor one candidate, cause or company.
He calls the shift “SEME,” for the Search Engine Manipulation Effect.
His first scientific paper on SEME was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2015. SEME, he noted, also has been replicated by a research team at one of the Max Planck Institutes in Germany.
Epstein warned that SEME is one of the most powerful forms of influence ever discovered in the behavioral sciences, particularly because it is invisible to people, or subliminal, in effect.
“It leaves people thinking they have made up their own minds, which is very much an illusion,” he told the Senate Committee. “It also leaves no paper trail for authorities to trace. Worse still, the very few people who can detect bias in search results shift even farther in the direction of the bias, so merely being able to see the bias doesn’t protect you from it.”
SEME, he said, is an example of an “ephemeral experience,” deliberately engineered to change someone’s thinking.
Epstein noted to WND that Google internal emails leaked to the Wall Street Journal showed the company created “ephemeral experiences” to change people’s views about Trump’s ban on travel from terrorist nations.
“These companies understand what’s at stake and that’s why they are being so brazen,” he said. “If they are brazen about Breitbart, imagine what they are doing with ephemeral experiences and search results.”
He also pointed to the power of YouTube’s manipulation of videos through its “up-next” algorithm, which pushes to users subsequent videos of YouTube’s choice.
Some 70% of videos people watch on YouTube are suggested by its up next algorithm, Epstein said.
He and his team are studying and measuring the power that algorithm possesses to influence votes and opinions.
“If a platform wants to shift people’s views and votes, you can’t counteract what they’re doing,” he said. “In most cases, you can’t even see what they are doing – unless you are monitoring.”
Epstein said a member of the Senate committee asked him for questions to pose to the Big Tech CEOs on Wednesday.
“Generally speaking they are not asking the right questions,” he said of the lawmakers.
Epstein said he could give some of the CEOs, including Google parent Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, “a stroke on live TV … because I know the truth.”
“It’s not just I know the numbers, but I’ve been talking to whistleblowers for quite a while and talking about people who are considering becoming whistleblowers,” Epstein said.
He believes a significant way to hold the tech titans accountable is for states to bring charges for illegal in-kind contributions.
“If you are Facebook sending targeted messages only to Democrats to vote, that is a massive in-kind campaign contribution that is illegal,” he contended.
In August 2019, as WND reported, President Trump spotlighted Epstein’s study concluding Google manipulated millions of votes in favor of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The former secretary of state responded, contending the study had been “debunked.”
Epstein fired back on Twitter, stating “to my knowledge no credible authority has ever ‘debunked’ either my 2016 and 2018 election monitoring projects or my controlled studies on internet influence.”
Epstein pointed out his “2016 monitoring findings were based on an analysis of 13,207 election-related searches, along with the 98,044 web pages to which the search results linked.”
He said the “pro-Hillary bias was significant at the .001 level.”
In his testimony to the Senate in July, Epstein warned that Google is working to ensure that Trump does not win reelection in 2020.
In an interview with WND in December 2018, Epstein pointed to a video leaked in September 2018 that showed Google executives at their first weekly meeting after the election of Donald Trump in 2016 exhibiting panic and dismay while expressing their determination to thwart the new administration’s agenda as well as the emerging global populist movement.
“You heard people saying it. It’s not my imagination,” Epstein said.
Noting again that he voted for Clinton, he told WND, “I don’t care whether I share those values or not, a private company not elected by the people should not have that kind of power.”
But Google has that power in 200 countries around the world, not just in the U.S., he noted.
“That’s obscene,” Epstein said.
He estimated that the outcomes of about 25% of elections around the world are being determined by Google’s search algorithm.
Google not politically neutral
A senior software engineer at Google admitted in a July 2019 interview with Project Veritas that the tech giants are not politically neutral and that his company manipulates search algorithms “to do what we want them to do.”
“It’s time to decide, do we run the technology, or does the technology run us?” said Greg Coppola, who worked on artificial intelligence and the popular Google Assistant software.
“Are we going to just let the biggest tech companies decide who wins every election from now on?”
After the interview was published, Google put Coppola on administrative leave.
Project Veritas asked Coppola about CEO Pichai’s testimony to Congress in December 2018 in which he insisted Google’s algorithms are politically unbiased.
Coppola began by expressing his respect for Sundar as a manager and noted that the Google Assistant on which he works, the counterpart to Apple’s Siri, “really doesn’t have a political bias.”
However, regarding Google’s algorithms, he said it’s “ridiculous to say that there’s no bias.”
“I think everyone who supports anything other than the Democrats, anyone who’s pro-Trump or in any way deviates from what CNN and the New York Times are pushing, notices how bad it is,” he said.
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